Wednesday, June 25, 2008

June 25: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Ligo, Graduation, Barbi Q, Karosta, 3rd Nephi

All: 87.36KM (109,264 steps).
Wow. Are you ready for all this? First, we went to Karosta (War Port), where we looked at the old ruins. I only put a few shots on there, but I've got scads. That was actually very fun. 9262 is a shot of what the front used to look like. These forts were destroyed as the Germans who occupied them fled (if I recall the rumors I've heard correctly). 3109 is underground (these forts all has stuff under them that connected all the top parts). And 3116 is a quick look at the rest.

We had yet another graduation this week. It was J.'s. She goes to a Russian school, so more of it was in Russian, but they still mixed Latvian into the thing. It was cool. They do graduations this way here: they have a little presentation, all the graduates give their folks flowers, then they are all called by name. They have some nice things said about them, then they stand in the middle of the room while people run up and give them flowers, gifts, hugs, and other things. They have 15-30 kids that graduate from each class (as each class is divided up into A,B,C, etc.). The picture I have attached is J. after with all her flowers (and her mother).

On Sunday, we had our district's last meal together. We decided to Barbie-Q, and we did it in a parking lot by the Rock Cafe. A guy came up and asked if we like problems with the police, because having a BBQ is the middle of the city was a good way to get the cops called on us. We thanked him, and had two hours of police-free grilling time. Monday, we had two sisters leave us (transfered to Rīga). Sister Morley is in Iemanta (the other side of the river from Rīga center) and Sister Heigan is in Rīga Center. Everyone else stayed in Liepāja, and we got nobody new. It's just a small, 5 missionary district (plus the Boems) again.

We also had a Ligo celebration. That is one of the 3 biggest celebrations of the year. This is the summer solstice party. Traditionally, you jump over fires, burn your old Ligo Hat (I forget what the thing is actually called in Latvian, sorry about that), and make a new one. Here's the one that I made (1070). That was really fun. We just spent time with the members and learned some Latvian traditions. Ironically, it was the coldest it's ever been since I arrived here on the 24th. The celebration is on the 23rd. But, it was cloudy, very windy, and rained a little. It was less than pleasant. But, whatever. We got to see a lot of less actives that day (because everyone else was plastered drunk at home).

Anyway. We have been doing a lot of work with less-actives. We talked to one of the Svari children and his wife (who is not a member--he is). We taught the plan of salvation. She was very interested in what we taught, and jumped right into reading the pamphlet we gave them as soon as we had finished praying. That was good to see, and I hope it can bring her comfort. And if it can help her to find God, all the better.

One more exciting thing: we went to visit O. in the hospital. While there, we met a kid named M.. He's really cool, has the light of Christ glowing from his eyes, and readily accepted what we taught him. Pagaidam, he is our only investigator that is going anywhere (the rest have been unable/unwilling to meet with us). One more interesting note about the hospital: they have done as little remodeling as possible since the Soviets moved out. The elevators are creepy, and my ride in one of those is the only time my whole mission I have been worried about my welfare.

Rest of the 3rd Nephi Notes:
20:35 - This is a reminder that Christ has been authorized to speak as though He were the Father Himself, for He has strived to be as Him and His thoughts, actions in all cases agree, and therefore as granted God's full authority. This has happened with several prophets: where they have been promised that whatsoever they ask the father in the name of Christ will be granted, for they would ask nothing contrary to His will.
21:2-3, 4 ("this land"=Americas), 7 -
the Book of Mormon has come forth indeed, though a God-built free nation where He could bring forth His church again. This prophesy is fulfilled in the Book of Mormon's publication.
- These chapters were given to the people from Malachi in the Bible. It made me think that, once again, God gives to all people liberally, and gives them all that is needed. Only after time do things become lost, and those important truths need to be restored.
26:8-11 - Interesting that the Lord gives us just more than enough, so we can believe, but not so much that it's impossible not to. 12:2-More blessed are those who believe with less given. God gives us all the proofs we need to develop as strong a faith as we care to build.
27:8-9 - This is why we unashamedly use Christ's name in our church's name. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is truly the church that Christ himself established when he was on the earth. The only difference is the location on the time line.
27:13-17 - Christ's gospel. This works because He has claim on mercy. But mercy cannot rob justice. Read Alma chapter 42. It is the clearest explanation of the Atonement and why the atonement of Jesus Christ has power to save us. But remember, we must believe in Christ, repent, be baptized in his name, and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, given us after baptism. These requirements are mentioned many, many times in 3 Nephi, starting in chapter 9. It is again mentioned 27:13-17.
27:19 - Requirement to gain access into heaven (v.20 is the commandment).
28:18-23 - "The Acts" from the bible in very short form. This quickly explains what the apostles did after Christ left. And it's the exact same thing that the ones in Israel did. It is very important that we note verse 23. People must be converted to the Lord, and not to anything else. That is why logical arguments that are employed by so many who claim to be religious fail to provide any spiritual nourishment. They do not convert people to the Lord, but to the argument.
29:6 - God never changes (He has no variable or shadow of change -- see Mormon 9:9). Therefore, He works as He always has -- through these things. For God is a God of miracles, and always has been, and ever will be. Any who say he has changed is not of God.
30 - Great commandment to all. Remember that priesthood is required for these acts (note that in Acts 19:3-6 a group of people were baptized without the proper authority from God to what they thought was John's baptism. But it was not, for he truly baptized with authority. So, they are all re-baptized and given the gift of the Holy Ghost by one who is authorized of God by the laying on of hands).

That's all, folks. I love you all!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

June 18: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Funeral, Baptisms, Pavil the Spider, and 3rd Nephi

All: There is very much to talk about today, so I will be as brief as possible. 105.53KM (131,948 steps) is a new weekly record.

Then, last week (before my last letter--on 7 June) there was a funeral of Mara Svara. This week, on Sunday, we dedicated her grave. Funerals here are a little different than back in America...and it was especially interesting because I knew Mara, and I liked her a good deal.
We also had the baptism of Rita and Jana. Rita is the one on the left on IMG_3009, and Jana is on the right. Jes, it really did happen in the sea (as evidenced by the images). 3026 is right after Jana's baptism. I did it in Russian for her. I was also asked to confirm her on Sunday, which I did in Latvian. There was a great spirit there. I love both these girls, as they think through what we teach them, and accept those things knowing what that entails for them. Something I read in 3 Ne 28:23 - they were converted unto the Lord. They were not converted to pretty words, or to a missionary, or to the people of the church, but to Jesus Christ. And I have seen these two girls accept the Lord their God while we teach. True, the people of the church here have been wonderful in welcoming them, but they have truly accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ and all that entails for them. It is a wonderful thing to see! Especially in their eyes, you can see they felt it, feel it, and are strong!

Now, for the trivia and randomness of life here, then on to my thoughts from 3rd Nephi + investigators. Sunday: very eventful. Started with me confirming Jana and giving her the gift of the Holy Ghost, and after church was the grave dedication for Mara Svara. On the way there, a drunk followed us out of "drunk circle" (which is the a circle just in front of the bank right by the church), and he then followed us onto the tram, and out to the cemetery. He found Elder Bodily very enjoyable, enough to show him his real tazer that he keeps in his pocket. He also enjoyed us so much he showered us elders with kisses and continuously invited us to his home. It was about 45 minutes with him, so that was...unique. The first time in my life I've been kissed by a man. I managed to avoid lip contact, however, and just got two kisses per cheek. Anyway, he told us about all the people he has killed, that he was on parole and a former assassin, and that his name was Pavil the Spider. All in Russian, of course. Quite a unique experience.

Latvian Trivia: Ligo is the 24th of this month. It is a huge celebration welcoming in spring. We received an invite from a lady in our English class to celebrate at her place about 80KM from Liepāja, but we can't go. Usually, there's a huge feast on the 23rd, and dancing, singing, and partying throughout the night. This is the celebration where you have the huge crowns made of leaves, also, so I'm looking forward to seeing that!! As far as I understand, there's not a lot of missionary work to do after, because the majority of humanity will have a hangover, so I'll let you know how that goes.

A. and I. have been unable to meet with us, but we have found Aldis on the street a few times, and have a meeting for this weekend.
A. and G. have been very busy with work. No contact this week. But, I found that they had had contact with the missionaries before, so I think that might have been why they were so receptive.

My Latvian is to the point where I can say almost everything I want when talking about spiritual things, and enough to express myself usually in other situations. I was able to explain that my camera fell on the beach and see if it could be fixed. I feel ever stupider in Latvian, as the more I learn and the faster I get at being able to speak, the more I realize I don't know and/or cannot say. So that's always fun.

Now, I read 3 Nephi, chapters 11-30 in the Book of Mormon last week, and invited any of you who read these letters of mine to do the same. Here are some things I learned from my reading:
11:8 - God the Father spoke to them from heaven. Only in three places that I know of do we have God's voice from heaven, and every time was to declare his Son, and encourage all to hear Him.
11:15, 17:9, 17:21 - All came to him one by one. He took time for every person individually. In 17:25, we read that there were about 2500 people. One by one would take a very, very long time! I was struck by the love and patience God has for each one of us!
11:39 - I like that this verse uses the same wording as Christ used talking to Peter (Matt 16:18), showing us the rock is, in fact, revelation and the doctrine of Christ, and not a person at all.
13:21 - Treasure: anything prized highly, carefully retained, and/or regarded as precious. What is our treasure?
15:11-24 - It's so clear that God loves all His children, for he gives to one people the same knowledge he gives to another. He does not deny any who believe in Him His truth.
16:7 - This is fulfilled in Joseph Smith, Jr. He is the Gentile to whom this (the fullness of the gospel of Christ in the record kept by a remnant of the House of Israel) was brought forth.
17:15-17 - This has always been among my favorite passages of scripture ever recorded. They both saw and heard Christ's prayer. What kind of prayer would be visible? What marvelous things would be seen during that prayer? It amazes me!
19:9 - This is very powerful as well. Christ's disciples (his chosen 12) had thousands on their knees praying for what they desired most: the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is the same gift I gave to Jana through the priesthood, that was given to Rita just last Sunday. This is among the greatest gifts of God in this life. Why? That is more clearly explained in 2 Nephi, chapters 31-33, in the Book of Mormon. There are, in those chapters, 15 distinct things that the gift of the Holy Ghost does for us. Among those are: communicate God's will to us, testify of truth, cleanse us from sin, purify us, and open to us the mysteries of God. Those are the things we need here in this life. I want to testify that this is a real gift, and that all can receive it if they will but live Christ's gospel and by baptized by one authorized of God (see note on chapter 30).
19:20 - Interesting here. Christ prays several times in this chapter to the Father. He asks that the Holy Ghost be given by the Father to those who believe in Christ's name. There are 3 very distinct beings. Another scriptural record of the three separate beings that form the Godhead.
19:23 - Here is the proof of the above. They are all one. That is, one in purpose. Verse 29 in this same chapter says that the goal is for us to be one with them as well. We are to be united in purpose, as the three separate beings of the Godhead are also united, and be one with them in the same sense.
19:24 - I like this. They didn't memorize things, or struggle for words; they truly wanted to pray to God, and they were given the things they should pray by the Spirit. Our prayers should be led the same way--a true communication with God, not a recital of memorized phrases.
19:29 - Note: our faith in Christ makes us chosen.
19:31 - Again, note how many times he prays. How critical for us to truly pray to God from our hearts!!

I will finish next week, as I am now out of time! But, there is an amazingly large amount of truth and power is these chapters! I love you all!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

June 11: Baltic Chŗonīcļe:

Dear All (Visiem):
Last week: 95.01KM (118,224 steps). This week: 80.89KM (101,126 steps).

Very, very good news today to report. But, first, the less important stuff (make sure you read the better stuff a few paragraphs down). Questions answered: Kids here also dress up for the first day of school. Very much. Interesting thing about Latvia this week: I will be attending a graduation. Apparently, the kids memorize a poem and recite it for their folks. They also, after someone's name is called, everybody who's there for them runs down and showers them in flowers and things. It's going to be very interesting. Answers: we did not set up the scavenger hunt. That was Inese S., who is also the one graduating. The barbecue...well, they had a tiny barbie here. The thing was pathetic. The huge odi (mosquitos) are primarily in the woods. Repellent does not phase them. That's like trying to use pepper-spray for anti-aircraft counterstrikes. Or a bb-gun for anti-tank strikes. It just doesn't work. The teaching on Sunday might actually stop for the missionaries. One of the less-active members has returned to church, and he has been called as a teacher for the investigator class. His first teaching was last Sunday, and he did very well. We have mostly adults and elderly people, but there are some solid youth (three kids), and about 7 primary/nursery kids. The youth here are involved with the church and come to activities and such if their parents do.

Typical Sunday for me: get up, be at the church by 9. I then prepare sacrament, set out the hymnals, clean up the church, maybe play a little piano, chat with the members who are there before church starts (usually the same 3). Then, church actually starts at 11. Sacrament meeting I usually pass the sacrament (as we now have enough elders and priests to bless that regularly come), then I either translate for foreigners who are there (a man from Denmark right now), or try to understand a member as they translate from Russian to Latvian for me (usually, very difficult to understand). So, that's that meeting. Then, the Gospel Principles class after is now taught by Janis M.. Then, priesthood is usually taught by President Ščerbeniņš, who speaks Russian, so very little Latvian creeps into that class. Sometimes I have a translator, sometimes no. Occasionally, I also play the piano (1 or 2 notes at a time) for the songs there. Then, we're there for up to 2 hours after doing tithes and offerings (recording those), in interviews, talking with the members, cleaning up again, undoing what we did before church (put sacrament away, put the hymnals away, etc.). Then, we go home, eat, then go on our Blitz! Usually, a Blitz is where the companionships mix up so there's a person who speaks both languages working together, then you go knocking on doors. But, since we are in a tripanionship that already does that, we don't change. Sometimes the sisters change around. We just meet somewhere, and we all knock around that area. Except for last week...our tram broke down, so we didn't get out to that area. We did teach a Jehovah's Witness who wouldn't let us pray or leave any literature, but she talked with us. It was one of the more interesting meetings I've been in. Anyway, that's what Sundays are like.

Now, the good news! First, and most important, there is a baptism tomorrow. Two girls from English class. R. is being baptized by President Ščerbeniņš, and J. asked me to baptize her. R. I don't know all that well. She's fairly quiet in groups. J., on the other hand, has been in my English class since a little before I got here. She, at first, wasn't sure if she wanted to believe what we talked about. Then, she felt the Spirit, and knew what we said was true. She was afraid to pray for a while, though, because she wasn't sure she wanted to fully commit to what is required, I think. But, as she continued to read the word of God found in the Book of Mormon, her desire to draw closer to God and to pray grew until she could not sleep without reading and praying, even after staying up until midnight studying for school! She has worked through this, and she is ready. I have even memorized the baptismal prayer in Russian (which was harder than I thought because the accents on words aren't always at the beginning, like they are in Latvian), but I've got it now, and I'm very excited. We'll do it in the sea. I'll have pictures and such next week. I'm thrilled!

Also, we have found a ready family. Their names are A. and I.. They are not yet married, but they accepted us into their home (even though we got lost on the way and were a little late), told us about themselves, and while we talked about the gospel, we received comments like, "I know we can pray to God and receive answers. I prayed for a wife that doesn't smoke or drink, and look who I found!" and "Well, of course God would restore His church!" When we challenged them to baptism, they asked if they could still be baptized even though they aren't married. It was very exciting!
Our other couple, A. and G., is friendly and still holds open correspondence with us. I don't know how open he is to the gospel yet, but we'll see tonight. They are great, and know the Bible very well. At least, he does.
P. and N. will not return until this week, so we'll follow up with them later.

I wanted to issue an invitation to everybody. In the next 7 days (before my next newsletter comes out), I would like you to read 3rd Nephi, chapters 11-30. That is the pinnacle of the Book of Mormon. After Christ's resurrection, He visited his "other sheep," not of the fold of Jerusalem (see John 10:16). These chapters are what Christ said and did with them. This is pure power. If any of you have ever wanted to feel the Spirit of God strongly, I can promise you, in the name of Jesus Christ, that when you read these chapters with an open heart and prayerfully, then you will feel the Spirit. I will do the same. And after, I will share a little of what I discovered/felt/came to understand (things I better understand or new things I discover).
A great week to you!
Elder Argyle

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

June 4: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Comps, Thai Folks, A Rock-Awesome Couple, and Bugs

To All: distance this week...I forgot to add it up! Letters received: one from G+G A, and a package from the folks.

Several questions. First, zone's what happens there: we all get together ("we all" being the Latvian Zone) and we listen to talks and motivation and such from President and Sister Watterson, a few missionaries (usually two a conference; those are called "workshops"), and a perfect model, where we practice teaching something or a way to do something. That lasts about 5 hours, if you add in the brunch and the lunch. It's usually really good, and this one was good. Sister Watterson, especially, talked about things that I was thinking about and I greatly enjoyed her talk.

Nothing happened to my visa. I go back tomorrow to pick that up. Autobusi here are about like anywhere else. But, there's a fun twist: we randomly have those things show up. So, if you're lucky you get the big, double-decker charter bus, and if you're unlucky, you get the giant mikriņš, which stinks. But, most of them are decent charter-style buses. It is almost always loud, because there's usually a crowd that just talks too much somewhere in the bus. It's quiet enough, however, to converse with those around you, so no worries. Almost everyone knows who the missionaries are, but they don't know what we represent. Usually, people know us as those folks who talk to you on the street. The ocean here is fairly dirty. We aren't allowed to eat any seafood from it because the soviets dumped so much waste in there that the fish are teeming with mercury. But, otherwise, it's just like any other large body of water.

What are my companions like? Well, Elder Bodily is from Idaho Falls, Idaho. He is now in your ward, Ashley, but he didn't grow up there. His father (with whom he lived) just moved, so he's never even been in "his house." He's really cool: he is a Macintosh fan (smart man), he crochets, he's easy-going, funny, a photography lover, and has a lot of amazing ideas. Elder Payne is from Las Vegas, and he loves to tell people that. Almost every Latvian knows what or where that is, and so it creates an instant connection. He's also really cool: we've convinced him he needs to buy a Mac, he's funny, chill, creative, and he makes English class easy! He just gets good ideas for that, and does it. He's also gone to college, and occasionally we have talks about chemistry or physics.

Other Q's: Two best things from last week--I got my camera (in a package frommy family), and we met with a really cool couple. More about that in a sec. Latvian week, school ended. Here, when school starts or ends, the school-goers dress up. They actually were all decked out for the "last day of school," which means the last day before their two weeks of finals. That was definitely odd to feel underdressed in a white shirt and tie (most of the kids also had suit coats...we've dropped those because it's so hot here). The weather has been nice, but now I'm seeing why Liepāja is called "the city where the wind was born." It's been ridiculously windy here, and because there is so much construction happening, it's resulted in a lot of dust blowing everywhere. Bet, nekas.

People we have met with recently:
P. and N.--this is a Thai couple that we spoke with. P. is an old investigator, but N. is new. He was less interested, and actually gave his Thai book of Mormon away to a friend, but N. drank it in and we got her a Thai book for when she returns (they went together to Russia, and a few days after they return they're heading to France...they sure do travel a lot!). I was quite happy to hear an oriental accent, after so long of hearing only Russian accents.

A. and G.--they are that amazing couple I was talking about. They are actually married (YEA!!!) and greeted us with sandwiches, juice, muffins (the first muffins I've ever seen here), mint tea, and good stories. They also had two friends come by, and they both stayed for the lesson. He (the husband) knew about things like authority from God by the laying on of hands, that baptism must be by water and by spirit to be effective, that the church needs to be built on a foundation of prophets and apostles, and several other things. I had a hard time talking a few times because he said things that impressed me so much. And he pulled all that info from the Bible!! Good on 'im! Ready for the downer? He's a member of the Russian Orthodox church, and he's very, very set on that being the only right church. Even though they no longer have apostles...I thought that was interesting. He's closed right now, but his wife felt the spirit, and one of the guests (a girl form our English courses) also felt it. So, we'll see. He just needs to understand and accept the apostasy (that "falling away" and "famine of the word of God" spoken of by Paul and Amos (Thessalonians 2:3; Amos 8:11-12)). We'll see what happens there.
We also had several families, but they couldn't or didn't want to come to our meetings, so that was a bummer.

English class is thriving. We have five new ladies in class that are listening to the spiritual thoughts; J. is going to be baptized on the 12th (as well as R., who is in another level of the English classes than what I teach), and we're seeing more come all the time. We held a branch activity last Saturday, and we had several less active members come and we all had great fun out in the woods! We had a scavenger hunt, a bar-b-q, and played a little on the beach. It was very patikams (enjoyable). Only one downer: there are clouds of mosquitoes here (odi, in Latvian) that are huge! Some were almost half a centimeter across along the body!! And when they bite you, you itch a lot for a good while!

This past while, I have been thinking about faith, and how Christ cannot act among men unless they have faith. Also, the Brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon (the first few chapters of Ether) saw Christ's spirit body before his birth on earth because of his faith in Christ. Christ could not restrict things from his view because of how much faith he had. The question then comes: what is faith, exactly, and how do we get more? I have thought about that a lot, because faith is much more that just a belief in Christ. It's even more than just a trust in the Lord. It's action on His teachings, and a constant striving to draw closer to Him. We need to have a correct idea of who Christ is in order for our faith to mean anything, as well. Because the Jews thought the Messiah would come to liberate them from their political enemies, and they thought He would forever feed them with manna again. They had an incorrect perception, and their faith in that incorrect Messiah profited them nothing. We must also know what and who Christ is to gain that faith. The best place to start is in the Sacred Grove, where Joseph Smith saw Christ and God the Father as separate beings with flesh and bone bodies. Knowing then that the Son is separate from the Father physically, and that they have actual bodies and personalities, we can then start to think about their relationships to each other. And (more importantly for us), their relationship to us.

God the Father is our father. He created our spiritual bodies. He knows and loves us, personally. Christ is the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. He is not God the Father. He is one of our Father's spirit children. He is our Savior, and our Redeemer. His mission on earth included the purchasing of all our sins, so that we can all become clean and return to live with them again. This is stated again and again in the Bible as well as modern revelation. I encourage all to whom these words come to pray to God the Father, in the name of our starpnieks (mediator) Jesus Christ, to know if these things are true. Moroni 10:5-6 reads: 5 "And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. 6 And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is." Listen to the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of all that is true.

That is all for this week. Until next time! I love you all!

Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )